November 9, 2016

Kid's shoebox packing party for Operation Christmas Child

This year I organized the shoebox packing party for the kids at our church.  I thought I'd share some info on how I did it/it went incase that would help someone else with their organizing.

First I made a plan of what I could afford to pack, with some donations I was able to add a few more items.  I was trying to fill 48 with a budget of $500, including shipping.  Here's a picture of what went in the boxes:

What went in the boxes/budget:

November 4, 2016

Crayon Brands Heat Stress Test

There's a great verity of prices of crayons, especially at back to school sale time from fifty cents to a penny.  So many to choose!  We want to send nice things to the children in our boxes, but we don't want to spend money just to get a name.  So I decided to do some tests.

We tested five brands for both coloring quality and resistance to heat (that they might experience in transit).  The brands we tested were Crayola which you can normally get for $0.50 at Walmart & Dollar General during back to school sales.  Cra-Z-Art are normally $0.25 during back-to-school sales at Walmart.  Playskool can be found at Dollar Tree and other dollar stores for $1.  Dollar General offers a brand I*Magine often 3 for $1 or $0.33/$0.34 a piece at Back-to-school.  Also at Office Depot I got some Scholastic brand for $0.01.   All those prices are for 24 count except Playskool that is 36.  For those who are concerned about manufacture location:  most are made in China, Crayola is made in the USA or Mexico, you'll have to check the package.

First, how do they color?
You can see images and thoughts of our coloring test post here: Crayon Brands Coloring Test

Second, how do they hold up to heat?
My understanding is that Australia & New Zealand have had so many problems with crayons melting, they've added them to the "do no send" list.  Now, their collection is in the summer as they're in the Southern Hemisphere, they have more extreme heat, and I've heard reports from those on distributions in Africa from the USA reporting the crayons came through fine.  But, still something to consider.

So, we decided to do some heat stress tests.  These were all conducted in the South Eastern United States in August, so pretty hot!  So, high temps in the mid to high 80's (degrees Fahrenheit).  We did multiple tests, and here are the results.  All were in place for a week, except the the one in the windshield that within a day was so clear I stopped it before it made a mess!

To be totally scientific, here's the control-all intact at room temperature, so 70-80 degrees:

Then we put one in the garage, so consistently high temperatures (80-90 degrees I'd say):

One went in the attic (I'm guessing 100ish degrees):

One went in a car trunk that was driven to work daily, and sat in the sun, temperatures should be 5-10 degrees less than in the body of the car/van, so let's say 110-125 degrees (Source:  Jan Null, CCM, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose State University, )

Then two went in our minivan.  One in a box in the back, so not in direct sun, but the van was consistently in the sun, so the temperatures should have reached around 135 degrees according to this chart I found (  You can see many of them lost their shape, and most oozed grease.  CraZArt held up best.

The others went right in the sun, and if they were dark, studies have show that could reach 200 degrees, even being lighter, they could have gotten excessively hot!   (Source:  Jan Null, CCM, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, San Jose State University, ) You can see some of them are even liquid!  My biggest surprise was Crayola didn't do well!!  Once again CraZArt was the best with heat.

The question then becomes, how hot might the crayons get in transit?  According to one study I saw ( in the South Western US, the internal temperature of trailers was measured, some did peak at around 140 degrees, but most reached 120 at the most.

A study of containers shipped from Japan (, one route of which crosses the Equator and goes past many shoebox recipient countries showed a highest recorded temperature of 135 degrees.

So, that's the information I could come up with of how different brands of crayons react to different temperatures, and what temperatures they might reach on their journey.  I hope it helps people decide which kind they wish to send in their boxes.  It has changed how I look at it, and I certainly will be bagging all of my crayons in case any do melt/ooze grease!

Happy Packing!

October 29, 2016

FULL OCC Go Box for 10-14 girl

One problem I run into when packing shoeboxes, is how to fit in everything I want to send.  A shoebox just doesn't seem to hold everything I want to give to the child.  Over the years I've learned some things to help me fit more things in, and love testing to figure out new ways to make things fit.  So I thought I'd share some things I've learned in case it could help someone else!  You can see in the photo at left everything I got in this one box.  Here's a list of what fit in (in no particular order):
  1. Pencils-14
  2. Puzzle
  3. Cotton gloves
  4. Socks
  5. Wistle
  6. Ball
  7. Plain pads of paper-2
  8. Toothbrushes-2
  9. Toothbrush case
  10. Soap
  11. Washcloth
  12. Stuffed animal
  13. Decorative box
  14. 1 Subject notebook
  15. Set of Lego type blocks
  16. Set of jacks
  17. Recorder
  18. Loom bracelet kit
  19. Extra loops
  20. Extra hooks
  21. Sample finished bracelets
  22. Bag for loom
  23. Necklace
  24. Hair clip
  25. Hair rubberbands
  26. Crocheted hat
  27. Comb
  28. Handkerchief
  29. Top
  30. Mini Apples-to-Apples game
  31. Slapper game
  32. BB maze
  33. Noisemaker
  34. 12 pack colored pencils
  35. Pens-2
  36. Pencil sharpener
  37. Eraser
  38. Self inking stamp
  39. Stencils-2
  40. Ruler/stencil/protractor combo
First thing I did was remove all unneeded packaging, that alone freed up a lot of space!!

And here's how I fit it all in (I actually took these photos as I took the box apart after packing it, so some of the small things were actually packed at a later step, but will only show if photographed earlier):

First I put in the paper flat on the bottom, and some small things against the sides (fell down a little in this photo).  This photo also shows how to fit more in the easy way-find mini versions of this Apples-to-Apples game!  Not to take away from WOW items, but finding mini of some things helps you fit more in.

Then I took the little box, put the lid on the bottom to make it open (it fit just right beside the plain paper) and put some small things in the corners (actually squeezed them in around larger items later)  . I took apart the recorder so it'd fit.  I put double bagged soap right against the, laid the pencils along the back, squeezed a hair clip between them and the soap, and handmade hat next to it.  I was trying to make a flat base beside the box for the next item.

I even put a pencil inside the recorder to save more space!!

The puzzle box I needed the flat base for, it JUST fit next to the small box.  Into the small box I put a ball, stuffed animal, gloves, and another small item.  Along the back of the boxes I put the colored pencils (I like to put flat/square items right next to each other, seems to fit best that air! :) ).  I put the toothbrush case behind that, and a par of socks rolled up beside them.  Along the back I slide the spiral notebook, it will fold over, when the box is closed. the puzzle box seems large...but there's a surprise in it...more about that later...
I took apart the Fun Loom kit- I put the lomb in a bagged in the space on the bottom of it (top in picture) I put some extra bands and hooks I'd bought as well as a marble maze.  Behind it I put the loops, hooks, and tool that came with the loom and a folded up washcloth.

Here's what the other side of it looked like.  I put pens between the studs and hooked on some finished bracelets as an example.  The loom itself was pretty thick, but most of that on one side I filled in as you can see in the photo of it in the box, and while I put some things on the other side, I mainly saved room by putting it in just right so the edge of the little red box fit between the nobs, so it could fit in the box.

And now for a little on the puzzle box:

First we built the puzzle...
 (this has a few advantages: 1-it takes less room.  2-it helps explain to the child what a puzzle is if it's new to them.  3-they can put it all together in a few pieces first)

Then I took it apart in pieces, put them in a bag.

then put it in the puzzle box

Then I added in jacks-carefully put in next to each other to take up as little space as possible, and a pencil sharpener.

Then, remember that Lego type kit who's box was bigger than the GO box?  Well, when I put all pieces together just so, so as to take up as little room as possible, this is how little room it took.  (I put it in a re-sealable bag with the instructions.

I put that and the jacks balls in (the barely fit height wise-had to break the puzzle apart just right to leave room) and the building kit fits beside it.

Finally, I put in a few flat things.  A couple stencils, a ruler/protractor/stencil combo, and a handkerchief.

And finally, this is the whole box closed...took two rubber bands, but it all fits!!!!

What's your favorite hint to fit more in a shoebox?

Happy Packing!

September 6, 2016

Guest Blog Post - How to Pack More into Less

One of my greatest "trials" in packing shoeboxes is fitting in everything I want to send-lol!  So, I'm always trying to figure out how to get one more thing in.  I love to hear other's ideas on the subject, and as there doesn't seem to be much out there on fitting more in shoeboxes, I decided to start a series of posts on it.  I have a couple in draft, but first here's a guest post I asked Amy Lukens to write!

How to Pack More into Less
You Really Can Fit a Lot into the Preprinted Boxes.
By Amy Lukens

Just as any of you reading this, packing shoeboxes is my passion. I am an Operation Christmas Child Area Coordinator in the Upper Midwest Region and have been packing shoeboxes for over 15 years. Lots of practice and natural spatial awareness have helped me to figure out ways to pack a lot in a little shoebox.

Before I go any further, I want to point out that this is how I pack my boxes. It is not the “right” way to pack. God has placed certain items on my heart to pack or not pack. He may have placed different items on your heart and that is perfect. The shoeboxes go to a variety of children with different needs and wants. Also I do pack mostly in OCC’s Preprinted boxes, but I will also pack a slightly larger box if needed. Certain items like teenage boy’s tennis shoes will not fit into the Preprinted boxes no matter how much you try. I will pack a little larger box such as a 6qt plastic box if necessary.
Here is how I pack my shoeboxes:

1. Remove packaging!
As soon as I bring my items home from the store, I remove every last bit of unnecessary packaging. My rule of thumb is: if the packaging is not useful after the item is opened, remove it. Items like crayons are in a box that will be used later to store the crayons so they stay. Items like puzzles, I take out of the box, cut out the picture and put in a ziplock bag. Others will open the box and add more items inside. Both save space.

It surprises many to see how much space packaging truly takes up. My awesome video editing brother, Andrew Lukens, and I made this video to help our church understand the importance of removing packaging. We even surprised ourselves!

2. Organize well.
This will look different depending on how many boxes you pack and how much space you have. I pack 30ish boxes and have limited storage, so I organize my items into the following categories:
  • Paper (notebooks, coloring books and loose paper)
  • Stickers (all my boxes get stickers – they take up no space)
  • School Supplies
  • Stuffed Animal (every box gets one)
  • Clothing
  • Hygiene Items
  • Larger Toys
  • Smaller Toys
  • Useful Items
  • Accessories

3. Choose items carefully.
First, I pick out my wow item (for most this is the stuffed animal, but I may add a second as well). Then I fill in with my other categories, starting with items I want in every box such as all the school supplies and the hygiene items before moving on to the other categories. This is when I start having to get choosy. If I chose a large stuffed animal or a soccer ball and pump to pack the rest of the items I choose will need to be smaller. I might need to choose flip flops over tennis shoes, a few small toys over another larger one, or a small flashlight over a hammer.

4. Pack smaller items inside of larger hollow items
Here is my favorite example from the bottom layer of a one of my 10-14-year-old girl boxes this year.

 This is a water bottle full of underwear inside a shoe. The shoe also has some things tucked into the toe and around the water bottle.

5. Stuffed animals are full of air
I don’t even use ziplock bags to press the air out of my stuffed animals I just close the lid. The boxes don’t always stay completely shut with just a rubber band, but they will once taped closed without any budging.

Here are a couple examples of large stuffed animals.

This bear does not look like it will fit, but that lid did shut all the way and there are still a variety of other items.

1. Take your time
Try fitting things one way and if it doesn’t work. Try another way or switch items. Packing a shoebox is like a jigsaw puzzle. It takes patience and time.

Since Pictures speak a thousand words, I’m going to close by showing several examples of what can fit if you take your time and treat each box like its own individual puzzle.

Here is an example of a Boy 2-4 box and how each item fit inside:


This box did close without any bulging

Examples of what can fit:

September 3, 2016

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 9/3/2016

 I got some fun items at Dollar General's 50% off clearance last weekend:

I also found sum "summer" toys on (unmarked) clearance 75% off at CVS-so 75 cents a piece.

I also forgot to include this photo last week.  I found these at Walgreens 90% off for 69 cents a piece. I know that's more than say the 17 cent lined paper notebooks at Walmart, but these were so nice, I thought it would be worth more-almost a WOW item for some of my 10-14 girls.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $7.29

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $4

Added to stockpile:
  • 9 water bottles
  • 1 Lego type kit
  • 6 sheet stickers
  • 1 construction vehicle toy
  • 4 sets jacks (could be split into 8 sets if needed-1 ball and 8 jacks each)
  • 1 yo-yo
  • 3 nice journals

Happy Packing!
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